From the jacket: For as long as they can remember, Brendan and Gary have been mercilessly teased and harassed by the jocks who rule Middletown High. But not anymore. Stealing a small arsenal of guns from a neighbor, they take their classmates hostage at a school dance. In the panic of this desperate situation, it soon becomes clear that only one thing matters to Brendan and Gary: revenge.
Despite the title, this book does not in any way advocate school violence or handgun use. It is a manifesto for what happens when a boy who has been bullied for most of his life, gets a gun and shows up at school to face his tormentors. Strasser peppers gun facts and school shooting statistics throughout the book so the fiction and the fact are interconnected. The story is told in the form of interviews and facts gathered by one Denise Shipley, a journalism student who wants to uncover the truth of the incident. This book is highly recommended, but as a caution, it has also been frequently challenged and banned.
Recommended by: Alice L. Cyphers, Librarian and Reading Specialist, Pennsylvania, USA
Riveting, terrifying, and tragically true, the statistics used in this haunting new ya novel should scare everyone living in America. Every day, thousands of students are bullied in our schools, and every day, some kid might snap. What happens when enough is finally enough? And what can be done to prevent it?
Ask the kids who were at Columbine. Ask the kids who attend Chardon High School in Ohio where on February 27, 2012, a student wounded five other students, three of whom later died. These are not isolated examples. Strasser includes facts and statistics from various sources as footnotes to the story of Ryan, Brendon, and Gary, three friends who are not popular or athletes at their high school. They are not the "in" crowd, and they dread coming to school every day.
This fact comes from Rolling Stone, 6/10/99: "In 1996, handguns alone killed 15 people in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, and 9,390 in the United States." It illustates the growing gun problem in America. Our teens know how easy it is to obtain a weapon. According to one statistic, 12% of American students have seen another student with a gun at school.
The three boys are constantly bullied and harrassed on a daily basis. Teachers do nothing to stop it other than say to the popular kids, "Hey, guys, cut it out." There is no back-up and no consequences. Gary chooses to fight back. Gary grows increasingly darker and practices with video shooting games, even buying a gun from another student. It is his descent into vile hatred and blind rage that carries the story.
Readers know that nothing but tragedy can come from Gary's actions, yet he is like a wounded animal himself. The daily barrage of tiny abuses multiply and grow exponentially in his mind.
This is not a feel-good story. It's a story that one hopes will make people pay attention to the facts that weaker people get bullied and they can only take so much.
Recommmended for teens who like realistic fiction with an edge. Grades 9-up. Language, violence, guns. 224 pages
Visit her ya novels blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
Pamela Thompson, MLIS, Library Media Specialist, Texas, USA